Note to Reader
This is a twelve month project which aims to bring to light the individual pain experienced by young women and to show how their unique stories make them who they are. We ask you to feel with an open heart and respect their stories.
The pain effected me by making feel I was worthless, I wasn’t special, and I was just an object to people. It made me look at myself like I was nothing. I wasn’t worth love and I wasn’t worth anything. And it bothered me for a long time. When people would say, “Oh, I love you!” I would think, “Nah, no you don’t.” It felt like no one really cared about me because people would say they did but then they would act something else. So I’m still in the process of trying to accept love because I just don’t know how to. I have a hard time believing people actually care, other than my children. I know they love me. They tell me a thousand times a day.
I do think I still struggle with it today. Not as much as I used to but it’s still a real struggle. Like with me trying to have relationships with people and opening up to have friendships. I’m very untrusting of people and that upsets me because it’s not their fault that these bad things happened. So I should give them a chance. I’m really working on just trying to give people a chance. And that’s the hardest thing for me right now.
I found forgiveness...
The good in my story is that I found forgiveness. I forgave myself for carrying that burden for so long. I forgave the people that hurt me, and that was a big step for me. And I think the best out of any of the situations is that I have my children. I have my six beautiful children. The good in all of it is, even though it’s hard for me to trust people or feel loved, I just look at them and they give me strength. My children make me want to go back to school. Just having them around me, getting up and going to school, we come home and when they’re doing homework, I’m doing homework. That pushes me. No matter what I was going through, I had something positive with me all a long. My children are my positivity. They keep me going.
I think the good is when all of this came out, my relationship with my mother changed a lot. She started listening to me more, she started spending more time with me. So that was one of the best things ever, having my mom.
My pain has helped me with my identity by letting me see myself, letting me see the right and the wrong in my actions, things I do and how I treat people. I can be very moody but I have to realize, “Okay, just think about how I feel when someone treats me that way.” So when I think about what things people have done to me, I try to better myself so I don’t treat people, or do anything that could harm them. I try to watch what I say. I try to be honest but I’m trying to learn how to be honest without being horrible. All of that makes me more honest. Trying to hide things doesn’t make a situation better. No matter what the situation is, talk about it, tell someone, get it out, and be completely honest. So it's changed my identity by making me more honest. When I see when I’m at fault, or doing something wrong, I can know that something’s not right and I need to fix it. I have those warning signs, where before self destruction would come. So it’s made me more aware of who I am, the people I’m around, and has helped me identify things in people, whether it’s someone I should be around or I shouldn’t be around.
Trying to hide things doesn’t make a situation better.
Who am I now? A work in progress. I am a little more mature Barbara. It’s taken me twenty-nine years because usually I’m more silly and childish. But who I am now is a person who is determined to get her life together and to see my goals met. I’ve set goals for myself. Some of them I have achieved and some I know I have a lot of work to do. I’m not perfect and I’m not striving to be perfect, I just want to be happy where I am. And that’s what I’m focusing on and where I am now, just to be content and happy. If everything doesn’t fall into place right when you want it, just have faith that it will. I just continue to think that it gets better and gets better. I’ve stopped thinking, “What’s the worst that can happen,” because I’ve learned it can get a lot worse. So my mindset now is, “What’s the best that can happen?”
Prayer ties everything together for me. Instead of seeing the glass half empty, I’m starting to see the glass half full. So that right there is my biggest motivation to seeing the glass half full. Don’t stop, just keep going. I say, “Just keep swimming!” a lot! Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming! And that’s what I do! So when you get to a roadblock and you have to go around it, just keep swimming.
When I was going through my pain and all of that, I thought that beauty was being top model, the skinny chick with all the makeup and beautiful hair, which you saw every day on television. When I started growing I realized that I had to get away from, “I’m not those people. I’m not that, I’m not this.” So five or six years ago I cut off all my hair. I cut off all my hair and for me that was a big step for me. My hair was my everything, it was my identity. My hair showed who I was and made me feel beautiful. So when I cut my hair off my perception of beauty changed. It wasn’t about what I was wearing or looked like, it’s about how I feel about myself. I like just being me. Yeah, makeup makes me pretty and all of that, but just me, with my hair sticking up on top of my head, me not wearing makeup, me just waking up and washing my face, that’s beautiful.
I like just being me.
My standard of beauty now, my children, no matter how I look, will say, “Mommy, you just look so beautiful!” Then I say, “But I haven’t combed my hair.” And they say, “Mom, I really like your hair standing up like that.” And these are things they tell me. So I don’t have to worry about things like that or try to put on a persona for the world. I’m just going to be beautiful the way I am. Everybody can take me how I am or not at all. And now I think I do a lot better at seeing my worth. I see my worth. I am somebody, I’m important, I have a lot to offer. I have a lot to offer in friendships, relationships, and as a mother to my kids. I have a lot to say. I’m beautiful just being me.
I think the scars I walk through do add to my beauty. Beauty is different for everyone but for me, coming out of a bad situation and being able to say, “Hey! Here I am. I’ve been through this, it happened to me, and I’ve grown from that.” So that makes me feel like I’m beautiful. And it shows that I can go through anything and no matter what, you get a scar, and it’s okay. It’s okay to get a little dirty because you’re still you on the inside. So all of it has pushed me more to see who I am. Regardless of whether things were painful or bad, I’m thankful for everything that happened because it helped me to become who I am now and helped me grow. I don’t think I would feel so beautiful or feel like I have something to offer if I didn’t go through those things.
Forgive yourself, forgive people.
To those reading this, no matter how dark life looks, no matter what you’re going through, no matter what it is that happened, forgive yourself. Forgive yourself, forgive people. If someone did something to you or said something to you, that doesn’t reflect who you are. It doesn’t reflect anything about you. It shows a lot about that person, but you can’t carry around the burden or the pain or the hatred for anyone. Just be who you are, be the best you can be, and just forgive yourself. Look at yourself everyday and say, “You are worthy. You are somebody. You can do whatever you want to do." Set goals for yourself. They don’t have to be real long term goals, they can be daily goals, weekly goals, monthly goals. Just set something to help you keep going and keep moving forward. What helps me is either writing in a journal or finding someone to talk to. Just try to find a way to get everything out.
Sharing my story has helped a lot. One, I like to talk, and it keeps it off my mind. When I talk about it, it doesn’t hurt. If I keep it bottled in, it hurts, and makes me think negative. So getting it out and talking about it helps me and people see I am human. So I really think talking about it helps. Now when I talk about it I don’t cry or get mad because hey, it’s a part of life.